Northern Wilds Magazine
Grand Marais tattoo artist Katie Bissell is particularly drawn to completing cover ups, watercolor and wildlife/outdoor pieces. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore Arts

Katie Bissell: Kat’s Tat’s

Katie Bissell is giving visitors and residents a chance to get new ink on the North Shore. Bissell, a Blooming Prairie, Minn. native, has always had an affinity for art. From her experience in a variety of art classes throughout high school to graphic arts courses in college, she always gravitated to creative pursuits. When it came time to look for a career opportunity in her field, however, Bissell was coming up empty-handed. Her 2,000-person town didn’t seem to be the place where she could thrive as she pursued her passion.

“Back 19 years ago, there weren’t many job opportunities for that profession unless I moved to a large town, and that wasn’t an option for this small-town girl,” explains Bissell.

A serendipitous connection changed the course of her immediate future. As she was looking for her next move, she met the owner of a tattoo shop. She learned the ropes of the tattoo industry doing work like cleaning, answering phones, and drawing images for him. He offered her the chance to become an apprentice under him, and she continued to gain an understanding of the nuances of running a small business. Her next move was a bold one: opening her own shop.

Katie Bissell opened her own tattoo shop in June 2007. She currently works out of her mobile unit in Grand Marais. |SUBMITTED

“I decided to open my own shop in June 2007 and change the image of tattooing. I am/was very family oriented and wanted everyone to feel comfortable with coming into my building,” she says. “I exceeded every cleaning standard, and got certified with bloodborne pathogens, aseptic techniques, CPR, and many others.”

She worked hard to build her business, Kat’s Tat’s, and customers began seeking her out. It took on a life of its own, and before she knew it, customers were booking appointments over a year in advance. She has owned five different shops throughout the state since taking that initial leap. She then began taking steps to relocate her family to Grand Marais, a place that she had first visited six years prior. Although she wanted to get a permanent location in Grand Marais, there wasn’t a permanent space available that fit her needs. Bissell remained flexible and decided to operate out of her mobile unit instead.

“My mobile shop is very unique since I can move locations throughout MN to fairs, festivals, tattoo parties, biker rallies, etc., all with the proper licensing,” says Bissell

Bissell doesn’t just work in the industry; she is a self-proclaimed “collector of tattoos” herself. When the inspiration strikes for a new tattoo, she opts to get her own work done by a variety of different artists. She picks up new techniques from each person that she takes back to her own shop. For her own clients, she is particularly drawn to completing cover ups, watercolor, and wildlife/outdoor pieces.

Although there have been many location changes throughout the years for Kat’s Tat’s, something stuck when she and her family landed on the North Shore in Grand Marais. It’s no secret that Grand Marais has a special draw for artists and lovers of outdoor recreation, and Bissell fits right in.

An example of Bissell’s work. | SUBMITTED

“I love walking around chatting with other artists on the Point as they are painting the beautiful landscape, or checking out the art galleries the town has to offer,” she says. “I feel like this is where I truly belong with my family at this point in my life. I really look forward to seeing how my business can grow and spread ‘expression’ along the North Shore over the years to come.”

Kat’s Tat’s is currently open on an appointment-only basis. Potential customers can contact her through a message on her business Facebook page or by email at: katstatsartist@gmail.com.

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